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2010-08-28 09:11:18
Salt Lake Tribune Special-Utah's Forclosures

Utah Foreclosure Rate Climbs but Still Lower Than National

By LESLEY MITCHELL | The Salt Lake Tribune | Updated Aug 27, 2010 04:44PM

More than 8 percent of Utah households with a mortgage were at risk of foreclosure this summer, reflecting continued weakness in the state’s economy and housing market. Nationally, nearly 10 percent of homeowners had missed at least one mortgage payment as of June, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday.

While some aspects of the quarterly report show improvement in problem loans both in Utah and the nation as a whole, the number of people losing their homes to foreclosure remains discouragingly high, and the percentage of delinquent loans — those at least one month past due — continues to climb both in Utah and nationally. Many delinquencies result in foreclosures later on.

As of June, about 4.6 percent of all borrowers nationally were in foreclosure. In Utah, only about 3.4 percent of about 439,000 homeowners with a mortgage were in the process of losing their homes to foreclosure. While Utah’s foreclosure rate is lower than the national average, the state’s rate is climbing and is up from just under 3 percent last year. Utah is ranked 24th in the nation in foreclosures.

“Ultimately the housing story, whether it is delinquencies, home sales or housing starts, is an employment story,” Jay Brinkmann, the trade group’s top economist, said in a statement. “Only when we see a consistent increase in employment will we see an increase in sales and starts, and a sustained improvement in the delinquency numbers.”

In addition to the poor job market, foreclosures also have been climbing due to falling home prices. When prices are falling, as they are in most areas of the Wasatch Front, more homeowners end up owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.

According to another report out Thursday, about 19.3 percent of all residential properties in Salt Lake City with a mortgage were in a so-called “negative equity” situation in the second quarter. An additional 6.3 percent were approaching the point at which they would owe more on their homes than their homes are worth, according to California-based business information firm CoreLogic.

Think that’s a lot of folks who are “under water?” In Nevada, an estimated 68 percent of all of its mortgaged properties are underwater, followed by Arizona (50 percent), Florida (46 percent), Michigan (38 percent) and California (33 percent). Those homeowners are at greater risk of getting in a financial bind should they lose a job or face some other financial hardship and have to sell their property.

“A substantial number of people owe more on their homes than they are worth, and they continue to walk away,” said Colorado economist Tucker Hart Adams. Adams said another factor driving delinquencies are all those risky loans with undesirable terms made during the height of the market. A number of borrowers with those loans can’t refinance into super-low fixed rate loans and will eventually lose their properties to foreclosure. For a number of reasons, 'I think we’re a long way from recovery,” she said.

Government efforts also haven’t made much of a difference in preventing foreclosures, experts say. Nearly half of the 1.3 million homeowners who enrolled in the Obama administration’s main mortgage-relief program have been cut loose through July, the Treasury Department said last week. The program is intended to help those at risk of foreclosure by lowering their monthly mortgage payments. Only about a third of those who started the program have received permanent loan modifications and are making their payments on time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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